New England Patriots Preseason Finale: What to Watch For

New England Patriots Preseason Finale
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Week Four of the preseason is generally seen as the least important of the meaningless games. It lacks the excitement of Week One, and the starters sit out most, if not all, of the game. Still, there are reasons to watch the final warmup before the meaningful games kick off. The New England Patriots preseason finale may lack star names, but there are still plenty of storylines to follow.

What to Watch For in the New England Patriots Preseason Finale

Berrios, McCarron, and the Slot Receiver

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the New England Patriots don’t have much depth at the outside receiver position. As currently assembled, the Patriots are set to have Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson as their top three receivers. That’s not exactly an inspiring grouping.

Because of this lack of depth, Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron have had the chance to earn a rather significant role in the Patriots offense. As of now, nobody has capitalized. McCarron has seen time at punt returner but hasn’t really impressed. As a receiver, he has just five receptions for 55 yards in three games.

Berrios has been even worse. Injuries kept him out of the second and third preseason games, but he didn’t perform well in his NFL debut. Playing with the underwhelming Brian Hoyer, Berrios recorded just one reception for three yards. Like McCarron, he has seen limited time at punt returner and didn’t do much with the opportunity.

One of these players will likely find their way on to the 53-man roster. Right now, McCarron has the inside track, but it’s still anyone’s game. Berrios should be able to play in Week Four, and a strong outing could earn him the job. With receiver depth so weak, whoever wins this job could see a decent portion of snaps, at least until Julian Edelman returns from suspension.

The Final Safety Spot

Following the release of safety Eddie Pleasant, it looks as though there are two candidates for the final safety position: Jason McCourty and Jordan Richards. Anyone who has ever watched Richards on defense knows that he should never play, and now all hope rests with McCourty to take the final safety spot.

Having McCourty play safety is something to monitor in of itself. Ever since entering the NFL in 2009, McCourty has exclusively played cornerback. The former Tennessee Titan and Cleveland Brown made his safety debut in the Patriots third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. The results were mixed, as he gave up a big play but also made a few solid tackles against the run.

Chances are the Patriots will continue to test McCourty at safety. If he can show promise, he might just take Richards’ spot on the depth chart.

Cyrus Jones

Cyrus Jones has not had the best start to his NFL career. After a streaky (at best) rookie season in which the former second-round pick clearly lost his confidence, Jones missed his sophomore campaign after tearing his ACL and meniscus in the 2017 preseason. He entered camp as a long shot to make the team and looked to be yet another failed second-round defensive back.

However, Jones showed signs of life in last week’s preseason game. Handling kickoff return duties, Jones put together a solid return on his first touch of the night. While the return was called back due to a penalty, Jones showed great vision and quickness reminiscent of what made him such a highly touted prospect to begin with.

He had a few other nice returns and didn’t stick out on defense. While he wasn’t making game-breaking plays, he also wasn’t getting beat on every single snap. At this point in his career, that’s an improvement. If Jones can show promise as both a returner and a cornerback on Thursday, then perhaps he can steal one of the final spots on the roster.

The Final Offensive Tackle

Unfortunately, it looks like the New England Patriots offensive tackle depth will be tested this year. The team already lost Isaiah Wynn for the season, while tackles Marcus Cannon and LaAdrian Waddle have extensive injury histories. Because of this, the Patriots could really have to turn to an unknown commodity at tackle.

Prior to Friday’s game against the Panthers, Cole Croston seemed like the most likely candidate for the job. While he played just eight snaps all season, Croston spent the grand majority of the 2017 season on the Patriots 53-man roster. By all accounts, Croston has performed adequately in practice and remained a coach favorite.

That narrative changed last week. LaAdrian Waddle lost his cool against the Panthers, picking up a personal foul penalty and riding the bench the rest of the game. However, instead of Croston, Ulrick John took snaps with the starting line.

John is the definition of a journeyman lineman, as he’s currently on his fifth team in as many seasons. However, he’s had a good camp, and the coaching staff clearly views him as one of the better tackles on the roster.

However, John hasn’t secured a roster spot quite yet. Talent-wise, there isn’t a lot separating John from Croston or even fellow offensive tackle Matt Tobin. With the starting offensive line resting, all three players should see plenty of snaps. Should John struggle, Croston or even Tobin could earn the final offensive line spot on the roster.

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